TORONTO – Mason Raymond was coming off what he believed to be a pretty good sixth season in Vancouver. He scored 10 goals in 46 games and entered the summer of 2013 as an unrestricted free agent for the first time. But when September rolled around and training camps were due to open in a matter of days, Raymond found himself without the safety and security of a contract. “We all knew what was happening with the cap,” he told the Leaf Report. “But did I think Id be in that situation? No, not at all.” Amid the now forgotten wreckage of the last NHL lockout was the plunge in the caps upper limit from $70 million in 2013 to $64.3 million this fall. The dip in available dollars and subsequent uncertainty left many veterans, like Raymond and new Leaf Jerred Smithson, searching with frustration for amenable contracts, often with little or no success. Though he had played in over 300 NHL games and had scored 25 goals as recently as 2010, Raymond had no better option but a professional tryout in Toronto on the eve of training camp. Suffice it to say, the lack of opportunity took him by surprise and remains a source of bewilderment. “I had a good year last year,” said the 27-year-old, who totaled 22 points in his final season with the Canucks. “I fully expected something to materialize. To be honest, I didnt really know that youd come into a team on a tryout five days before camp opened. I was optimistic and so was my agent, but it just seemed like for whatever reason a lot of players got stuck in the situation that I did.” There was a general sense among teams, including the Leafs, that cost-effective opportunities might present themselves because of the cap crunch this summer. But to find Raymond available on the eve of training camp was certainly an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Inked to a one-year contract for an even $1 million, he has proven a valuable find so far. Averaging what would be a career-high of 19 minutes, Raymond has scored five goals and 11 points in 17 games. His speedy presence, amid a 10-game suspension to David Clarkson and early injuries to Nik Kulemin, James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul, as well as current ones to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland, has been an obvious aid to the Leafs, who sit third in the Atlantic division. “Ive always believed Im an NHL player,” Raymond said. “I thought that prior to coming to camp, I thought that all summer and I think that to this day. You have to go out and prove that more importantly to yourself, I think. Im a big believer that, [if] you do the right things, play some good hockey, everything else will take care of itself.” Some fled to Europe with no jobs to be found as the summer months waned and became fall. Others stuck around and remained as patient as possible, Raymond and Smithson, a veteran of 588 career games prior to this season, among them. “I knew the situation,” said Smithson, in conversation with the Leaf Report. “I knew the cap was going down, but nothing can really prepare you for that. I figured I was still good enough to get a job, get a one-way deal somewhere and, when it didnt happen, it was tough. It was not so much humbling, but more frustrating. I knew it was a possibility, but once it really hit, it [was] not a good feeling.” Unlike Raymond, Smithson wasnt able to land even a tryout in the NHL, but one instead with the Marlies of the AHL. It was mid-October. He and his fiancé were parents of a newborn baby. Patience had been predictably difficult to keep. “I knew right away I wasnt obviously a big name, that teams were going to go after the first few days, so I was prepared to be patient – maybe not this patient, but prepared to be patient,” he said. “Once August rolled around and still, there wasnt anything that was really coming out at me. There were a few tryout offers or two-way deals, but nothing that I was really willing to bite on right away.” Smithson and his agent were forced to give a good, long look to Europe. “It was never a dream of mine to go over to Europe,” he said. “And I made that clear to my agent right away that Im willing to be as patient as I can. It was obviously a lot harder than I originally thought, but it worked out.” Injuries to Bozak and Bolland finally opened a door back into the NHL for Smithson last week - the 34-year-old signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $550,000. A noted faceoff specialist and penalty killer, he has quickly gained an important role for Randy Carlyle, plugging the gap of the two injured centres in both regards. “Im not a big fan of the term ‘it is what is, but I cant control [the cap crunch],” said Smithson, who played seven seasons in Nashville, also making stops in Los Angeles, Florida and Edmonton. “I could just control my attitude and try to stay in the best shape as I possibly could and, if a phone call came, just be ready for when that opportunity knocked. Im very grateful for the opportunity the Leafs gave me, with the Marlies and with them, [and Im] just looking to take advantage of it.” Though Smithson projects as more of a stop-gap option, Raymond could earn himself a larger contract next summer with a productive season. Two years ago, Clarke MacArthur joined the Leafs late in the summer on a bargain one-year deal, worth $1.1 million. Now a member of the Ottawa Senators, MacArthur busted out with a career season that first year in Toronto, subsequently signing a two-year deal worth $6.5 million the following offseason. Raymond could be in line for something similar if he remains productive. At the very least, with the cap expected to rise once more, he is unlikely to find himself in such a precarious position again. "Thats hockey, thats life, thats the cards you were dealt and you have to deal with it,” Raymond said of the cap crunch this past summer. “You can sit here and say the what ifs, whatevers, and all that, but it was a situation and, unfortunately, it happened to some of us. I think [the cap was] the reason, [but] I dont know the exact reason. For [Smithsons] sake and my sake things have worked out well.” Alan Trammell Tigers Jersey . They have watched it from afar. And now they have seen it for themselves. Justin Verlander Jersey . Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist as the New York Islanders earned a 2-1 win over Ottawa Wednesday, leaving the Senators five points out of a playoff spot with just five games to play and four teams ahead of them. http://www.baseballtigersproshop.com/ni ... /.Tzavelas opened the scoring in the 11th and Pereyra added another in the 51st. Emmanuel Kone pulled one back in the 80th and Levadiakos missed several chances to level in the last 10 minutes. Detroit Tigers T-shirts .DeMarco Murray got his 20th carry late in the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, not long after Dez Bryant made his final catch of the day.Sure enough, a 44-17 win over Washington didnt change Dallas post-season position. James McCann Jersey . On a hot, sweaty day, the Hall of Famer looked cool and comfortable.CALGARY -- Canadas medal prospects in the new Olympic sport of freestyle halfpipe are bright if the World Cup in Calgary is an indication. Canadian men swept the podium and placed four in the top five Friday at Canada Olympic Park event and that was with reigning World Cup champion Mike Riddle of Sherwood Park, Alta., sidelined with a bruised heel. Justin Dorey of Vernon, B.C., Calgarys Noah Bowman and Matt Margetts of Penticton, B.C., finished first to third respectively in the halfpipe, which makes its Olympic debut next month in Sochi, Russia. Simon dArtois of Whistler, B.C., was fifth. "We have a lot of talent on the halfpipe team right now," Dorey said. "I think were all capable of putting down podium runs." Dorey, 25, posted a combined two-run score of 87.20 points for his first World Cup victory. Bowman, 21, was second with a 84.40 score, while Margetts, 25, was third with a score of 82.60. Calgarys Megan Gunning finished just outside the womens medals. Rowan Cheshire of Britain won the womens event with a score of 80.40 points. Virginie Faivre of Switzerland second with 79.80 points and Amy Sheehan of Australia third with 79.20. Edmontons Keltie Hansen was eighth. As in snowboard halfpipe, the freestylers use momentum generated by the pipes slopes to gain air and perform tricks. Former world champion Rosalind Groenewoud of Squamish, B.C., underwent surgery on both her knees last month. She wasnt yet ready for competition although she intends to compete in Sochi. The U.S. team wasnt in Calgary so reigning world champion David Wise and world silver medallist Torin Yater-Wallace were not in the mens field. "Theres no doubt there were some strong podium contenders who werent at this event, so that opens up a little bit of room," Canadian coach Trennon Paynter said. "That being said, our guys who podiumed today have all podiumed at major events in the past. "We had four of the top five. Its one of the best results weve ever had as a team. At this time of the year as were building towards going into Sochi, its such a positive note. Were all stoked." Canada will have to leave some halfpipe talent at home for the Winter Games. The country can enter a maximum of four men and Riddle has alreaddy qualified for one of those spots.dddddddddddd "We have some of the best halfpipe talent in the world, which is pretty crazy," Margetts said. "Its pretty cool we have that. It also makes it really difficult because we have so many good competitors, teammates we have to compete against and theres so few spots. "I still had two Canadians, two teammates, two competitors who were still ahead of me. Even though we all did well today, they still did better than me which gives them that little more of an opportunity to go, which kind of sucks. Youre obviously stoked for your friends, but youre competitors at the same time so its kind of difficult emotionally to deal with that." Dorey felt some of the pressure to qualify for Sochi lift with his victory. "Its not official that Ill be going, but I feel really confident in my position to get on the team, so now I can start pushing it a little bit more and start working on my Sochi run," he said. "The pressure, Im starting to learn how to deal with that a little better. There will be plenty of that in Russia. Im stoked to go there because Ive been doing this for almost eight years and lot of the guys I grew up with doing this sport have kind of phased out of it." Bowman joined Canada Olympic Parks freestyle club at age 14, so standing on the podium in the place where it all began felt special to him. "It means so much to have a podium with two of my best friends and teammates here in Calgary," he said. "It was so amazing to have friends and family out here supporting. Hearing all them cheer before I dropped in, I got chills." Both Bowman and Margetts said there was a standing bet among the Canadian men that if they ever achieved a medal sweep, Paynter "had to start smoking again," said Margetts. Paynter disavowed all knowledge of the wager to reporters. Canadas three male medallists each received a $5,000 bonus from WinSport, which operates Canada Olympic Park. WinSport established the Sarah Burke Performance Awards in memory of Burke, a Canadian freestyle ski pioneer who died following a training accident in January, 2012. Any Canadian athlete who earns a World Cup medal at COP earns the financial award. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '